Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

We need an army of skilled workers to run the green economy so it’s no surprise demand for sustainability education is on the rise.    

There’s been an uptick in interest in courses that teach trades people, particularly builders, about sustainability, according to Green Building Institute’s Daniel Wurm.

Mr Wurm was not 100 per cent sure why this tough sector had suddenly become more attractive, but he suspected builders saw opportunities in the growing sustainable construction market.

“That’s great, because that’s exactly what we want to help them to do.”

He said the rush to upskill was often driven by new government regulation, which doesn’t seem to have been a factor in this case.

Mr Wurm said there was a wealth of educational options out there, with universities, colleges and private providers offering courses to upskill building and construction practitioners. The variety is great, he said, but it was sometimes difficult for a prospective student to navigate. 

More colleges had signed up to those courses, but Mr Wurm said the courses often had no sustainability content, or their material is out-of-date.

Australian universities are also starting to treat sustainability as a top priority.

At the University of New South Wales, the Built Environment School has bolstered its sustainability offerings to meet a growing student appetite.

According to head of the school, Associate Professor Philip Oldfield, in 2015 the university added a high performance stream in the Masters of Architecture program, which has since doubled to become the most popular stream in the degree.

He said the stream had courses in building energy performance, urban heat mitigation and other key sustainability topics.

Flinders University in South Australia has also experience strong interest in its courses that have relevance to the environment, according to a university spokeswoman.

“In our existing offerings in subjects like environmental health, ecology, water and environmental sciences, such as marine studies, to engineering and design that helps shape infrastructure, we are broadly seeing growth in preferences and offers and healthy demand for courses in 2021, with initial undergraduate offers up 15 per cent and postgrad up nearly 10 per cent, with further offers pending,” she said.

The university is also considering offering a new course in environmental engineering.

Late last year, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) launched a new, four-year combined Bachelor of Sustainability and Environment degree.

The degree nods to the multi-disciplinary nature of working in sustainability, with students choosing from a range of secondary degrees.

“Every sector of the economy is grappling with questions of sustainability – green investing, eco-tourism, environmental conservation and making health care environmentally sustainable – and industry and government need graduates who can think creatively and drive practical solutions,” said UTS fisheries researcher Professor Kate Barclay.

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